It’s just a fact that people need people. Without those flesh and blood connections we all lose both quantity and quality of life. For older people who live alone this can be more serious than a heart attack.
The #1 indicator of morbidity in an elder is isolation. That’s a fact, not a theory. Not only do we need those stimulating conversations, we need someone who cares, someone who sees us on a regular basis to make sure we’re doing okay. Connecting is life. The older we get the more obstacles we might face that keep us from connecting with others. As caregivers we need to keep an eye on what might keep our loved ones alone.
Some problems that might make an elder isolate are:
- Lack of mobility
- The loss of a drivers license
- The fear of falling
- The loss of a spouse
- Medications that interfere with the mind or speech
These can wreck havoc with an elder’s social life. Embarrassment, fear, depression are three problems thousands of elders face each and every day. The good news is that we know isolation kills and many senior centers and assisted living communities and even private individuals are making an effort to reach out to isolated seniors.
We can help our seniors stay connected with others with just a little effort.
Everyone needs something to look forward to each week and seniors are no exception. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal; just a ride for an ice cream cone or a visit to the senior center once or twice a week can really make the lives of senior better. Last week on Facebook I read about a senior tea party a community group holds every week for isolated seniors. The seniors said talking to someone their own age is what they enjoy the most. Getting out of the house and having something to look forward to each week has been such a blessing.
Other communities take seniors to lunch once a week or have classes for painting, sewing, book clubs and so much more. Other communities have found that facilitating seniors to visit with children is just the ticket to keep an elder much more satisfied with life. Exercise classes are in nearly every community and many are designed just for the elderly. Swim clubs and bird watching are also groups that keep senior connected.
In my small town, the local Historical Society is a big draw to seniors. They attend monthly events and even help cook for community gatherings. They are known for being the ones you can count on if you need some help at any civic fundraiser or event.
Whatever your elder likes to do even if it’s just getting together with a friend once a week it can save their life. We just have to care enough to notice if we think they might not be getting out and socializing. It is definitely an indicator of a problem and one we should not ignore.